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5 Qualities to look for when hiring remote employees


If you run a modern and forward-thinking business, you understand not only the benefits of a remote workforce but the necessity to diversify your employee base by hiring for remote positions from different job markets.

However, hiring remote workers can be tricky. Neither every position nor every employee is suited to remote work careers, and it can be challenging to screen for the right qualifications for a role that will be completed hundreds of miles from your physical work location. It’s not like these qualifications – or lack of – show up on their LinkedIn profile or Indeed application. It’s hard to know what to look for in an employee.

When hiring remote employees, there are certain qualities that hiring managers should look for – and avoid. Whether a candidate lacks certain key characteristics of a productive remote employee or they’re more motivated by working in an office environment, it’s critical to establish the right fit on both sides of the equation before committing to hiring a position remotely. Any gaps in communication or incompatible working styles will only be more pronounced once they’re working in the role and you’re relying on technology to work together to resolve issues. 

So, what does it take to find a productive remote team member, and how can you establish the right fit during your remote hiring process? Here’s a quick list of traits to look out for during recruiting and interview conversations.

Qualities to look for when hiring remote employees

1. Intrinsic motivation

The traits you look for in any candidate should always apply to the employees you bring onto the team remotely. That said, remote team members will require certain working qualities that your in-house staff might not need or have.

The traits to look for in remote employees stem from them being intrinsically motivated to operate with a high degree of productivity and professionalism. This includes prompt and productive communication, being detail-oriented, and focused on problem-solving and achieving results.

2. Independence

Prior remote work experience is a major indicator that a candidate has the motivation and organizational skills needed to effectively work from home with little handholding required. As you expand your team, you’re hoping to improve your business processes and overall production, and you’ll need to be able to rely on remote employees without needing to check-in frequently and micromanage their work.

Lean on candidates with a proven track record of successful remote working experience to eliminate this risk. If they don’t have remote work experience, ask them about projects or campaigns they’ve managed independently to get an idea of what you can expect of their ability to get things done.

3. Culture fit

If candidates aren’t bringing years of remote work experience to your team, then what other ways can they fit productively within your company culture? Focus on candidates that will create as little friction as possible with your current team by understanding who they are as a person, as well as a professional, and how to communicate and collaborate harmoniously.

Meeting a candidate face-to-face through a video interview can offer additional insight into a candidate’s energy and communication skills. Watching how a candidate answers questions and communicates in real-time with the added context of visual cues can be helpful for determining if they’re the right fit for your team.

4. Results-oriented

Part of the benefit of hiring remote candidates is that it can eliminate certain biases from the hiring process. If a candidate’s work can speak for itself, that should be one of the key factors in your decision. For remote candidates applying for a production-based position, have them complete a small test project that you can use to test their capabilities before bringing them on to your team.

Have the task mimic very closely the type of work that the candidate would perform should they be hired. This will provide exceptional insight into the quality of work the candidate will provide, as well as the candidate’s expertise and understanding. If they work remotely for your team, their results will need to stand on their own when it comes to reporting and evaluation, so this will be a good testing ground for the candidate, too.

5. Adaptability

Adaptability is a quality that plays a role in the day-to-day life a remote worker. Remote workers need to balance different communication styles, synchronous and asynchronous. If they have a flexible work environment, they need to be able to adapt to and be productive in whatever location they find themselves in (e.g., co-working space, coffee shop, home office).

The nature of remote work can present challenges – especially when working with a team that’s distributed across different time zones. How will they handle a problem when their team is offline? Ask for an example of a time when they were presented with a challenge and had to adapt their work process or way of thinking to handle the situation.

While all of these traits are important, there is one critical thing to remember: a remote employee can only be successful if they have a supportive and transparent employer. It’s the employers’ role to ensure that their remote employees feel part of the team and have everything they need to complete their jobs. 

One way employers can set their remote employees up for success is to equip them with the right tools and tech. At Owl Labs, remote workers are provided with a stipend to outfit home offices with equipment – like high-speed internet, a webcam, proper lighting, and more –  in addition to receiving a company computer with all the necessary software. Communication software like Slack and in-office hardware like the Meeting Owl and Owl Bar can go a long way toward making remote employees feel included too. Remote and hybrid collaboration is becoming table stakes for many industries, so it’s important to be sure your office is wired with the right tech

Hiring remote team members can be challenging – especially during the age of hybrid work – but with the right approach, you can expand your talent pool and find the right candidates to fill your positions. To learn more, read about how to ask a manager to start working remotely.

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